I was recently flipping through a coffee table book about tigers, studying the different pictures. Interspersed throughout the book were pictures of native people, their ways of life, their religious beliefs, and their surroundings. Not many—the book was mainly about tigers, how they live, and how they’re endangered (I didn’t appreciate most of that last theme, but that’s beside the point). But there were a good number of “other” pictures.
Then it hit me: This would be a fantastic way to research the country a story is set in! This particular book had India, Thailand, and possibly other Southeast Asia countries as well.
Some of the pictures covered major crops, normal clothing styles, shamans (witch doctors), Buddhist temples, landscapes, the resident’s problems with native animals, and much more.
I have a hard time visualizing my characters, their setting, and the landscape around them. I know not all writers are like me, and I’m glad of that. But for those of us that struggle this way, perhaps this is a way to overcome it—visually.
Next time I’m attempting to describe a country, I’m going to find one of these picture books for adults and indulge in some beautiful descriptions.
Do you struggle with creating good descriptions? Have you ever used coffee table books this way before?